By Scott Keith –
I have a dog named Kai, who is a Siberian Husky. At one time, she was a legit sled dog. She, along with her three sisters, would pull me on a small, one-person sled around a 3.5-mile loop in a little place called Hope Valley, California, which is near Lake Tahoe. Kai was what is referred to as the lead dog, which is the dog who is in charge of all the other dogs and the one who listens to the directions of the musher (me). These days, she is a bit older and a lot slower. She still likes to pull, but now her pulling is on a collar, not a harness as we take our daily one-mile walk around the neighborhood.
In many ways, the fact that Kai no longer pulls a sled has made her a “better dog.” When she was a mushing dog, she was intense and driven, always looking for the next adventure and trip to the mountains. Running next to me, biking next to me, or pulling me on a sled through the vast wild of Lake Tahoe was her life, and she loved it. Now that she is slower and less active, her mood has tempered, and she is––much like the rest of the family these days––somewhat lazy and chill. She sleeps a lot, eats a little, plays very little, and likes to be pet as we lie together on the couch. She listens better now and is certainly more obedient.
But my daughter says that Kai is a dragon. A dragon’s only goal in life is to guard their precious treasures. Kai, now that she is older and has few better things to do than collect toys, and she has a lot of them. I mean, she has a lot of toys!! Every day, usually in the afternoon, she will wake up from one of her many naps, gather all of her toys from the bucket, play with them for all of three minutes, and then put them in a pile. Once her toys are all in a neat little pile, she curls her body around them, lies down, and goes to sleep guarding her precious treasure.
The interesting thing is that Kai doesn’t like to play with the toys all that much. In fact, if I try to throw one for her to fetch, she’ll often just look at me with a quizzical face, or she’ll go and get the toy, put it back in her pile, and curl up around the pile once more. The toys are her beloved treasure, and as long as no one else is messing with them, she’s perfectly happy for them to remain untouched. She once was a dog of adventure and freedom; now she is a dragon guarding her pathetic little treasure of stuffed animals.
I often worry that I have become like Kai. I once saw the truth of the Gospel as life-changing, miraculous, and freeing. The Gospel was something that demanded to be shared! Now, more often than not, I treat it like a pile of pathetic little toys that need guarding in my living room. Once Kai lived to run the mountains, and once I lived to “Go Tell It On the Mountain”!
Too, Lutheran theology is rich and beautiful like a glorious treasure. Our theology is driven exclusively by the truth as we know it from Holy Scripture and focused expressly on the justification of the sinner before God by the grace of God alone, through the God-given faith alone, on account of Christ alone, and giving all glory to God alone.
When done well, Lutheran theology echoes the words of the Apostle Paul, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) When done poorly, Lutheran theology hides under the guise of a protective internal ecclesiastical, political measure meant to guard the treasure of the Gospel rather than proclaim the Savior Christ to a world in desperate need of saving.
The Gospel is not a dragon’s treasure. We are not called to merely guard the truth of Christ; we are called to shout it from the mountaintops, tell all people, and spread the Word of Christ! Indeed, in Christ, we are forgiven when we fail to do this. Yet, our goal, our calling, remains the same: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
We may feel as though our tendencies to protect the treasure makes us better Christians, but protection is not our only, nor primary, calling. Our calling is to preach Christ! “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17) “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.'” (Mark 16:5) “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16) “What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.” (Matthew 10:27)
The dragon must be slain. The treasure, who is our Savior, Christ the Lord, is to be proclaimed proudly and spread to all the world! For God would have all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)